Infantry: December 28, 2001


: The Marines adopted a 13-man rifle squad (three fire teams, each four men including one automatic rifle or squad automatic weapon) in 1944 and have maintained it to this day. They feel that three fire teams are better than the Army's two teams, since if one is trapped the second can form a base of fire while the third maneuvers to win the skirmish. The Army has used at least 16 different squad organizations since 1963 and at least than many during earlier years. The Marines have now ordered a study on changing to a smaller squad with two teams, and the rank-and-file are up in arms. In their view, the study is merely eyewash to validate a political decision to reduce the payroll while pretending the smaller squad is just as effective. And while this sounds like typical Pentagon micromanagement, a review of the various squad organizations used by US forces leads to one inescapable conclusion: it really doesn't matter how the squad is organized. Combat losses will disrupt the paper organization, available leaders and weapons will force the organization to adapt, and the key element of success is training not organization. Given well-trained infantry, the size and organization of the squad are all but irrelevant; it will accomplish its mission if it is trained to do so. The problem is that training is just not adequate (in the Army or Marines), and should be improved. Some suggestions include:

@ Give priority to the infantry. The key infantry squads are last in line for training time and money, and in peacetime are constantly robbed of people to keep the rear area support units up to strength.

@ The current system of large-scale exercises tends to ignore squad tactics and just move entire squads around in a choreographed dance that has little to do with what squads would be doing in wartime. More training time should be spent on squad and platoon tactics.

@ Squad training time should be preserved instead of being the first place to steal man-hours for other projects.

@ Platoon leaders and NCOs need to be taught how to train squads instead of just individual infantrymen.

@ The Marines are ashamed to admit that the Army ARTEP publications on squad training are better than anything in the Marine Corps library.

@ Squad leaders are often picked as the senior soldier in the squad (after NCOs are robbed for other duties) instead of being given the special training they need.

@ Soldiers and Marines should be kept in their squads as intact units as long as possible, a year or more and perhaps two in order to build cohesion. --Stephen V Cole




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